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Greyhounds can’t stop Hurley misdirection attack

Despite its game-long inability to slow down Hurley’s misdirection offense, Loyal still had a chance to win late in its Oct. 25 WIAA Division 7 Level 1 playoff game. One last time, however, the Greyhound defense couldn’t get a stop.

Hurley ripped apart the Loyal defense for 444 total yards in a 33-22 win that propels it to a Level 2 game at Edgar this week. The Midget offense relies on complicated fakes and crossing backs and carried the team to a 25-8 lead after three periods. With a scoring drive, an onside kick recovery and another touchdown, the Greyhounds got to within three points in the fourth quarter, until once more Hurley drove down the field for a game-securing score.

Loyal also played Hurley in a Level 1 game in Loyal last year, and head coach Chris Lindner said his team knew what was coming this year. That didn’t mean the Greyhounds could stop it.

As Hurley quarterback Jack Santini executed a variety of fakes to backs coming from all directions, Loyal could not figure out on whom to key.

“Our kids just had a heck of a time finding the ball,” Lindner said. “We had a real tough time stopping them defensively.”

Running back Kodey Henning was a particular problem, as he ripped off 218 yards on 18 rushes and scored three touchdowns.

Santini drew first blood, on a 13-yard run with 3:31 left in the first quarter. Henning then broke a 44-yard touchdown run early in the second period for a 12-0 Hurley lead.

Loyal answered with a quick strike of its own as quarterback Wyatt Dietsche connected with Trevyn Wilke on a 35-yard touchdown pass play. Nathan Buchanan’s 2-point conversion run made it a 12-8 game.

Henning turned the momentum back the Midgets’ way with a 66-yard run on Hurley’s first play from scrimmage after the Greyhound score. Loyal was able to stop the 2-point conversion play for the third straight time to trail 18-8 at the half.

Hurley mounted a long drive to start the second half and punched it into the end zone again. The drive consumed almost nine minutes of the third quarter and ended on a 5-yard Henning run. Hurley kicked the extra point for the 25-8 lead.

Lindner said his offense found some life at that point and drove down to score on an 11-yard Buchanan run early in the fourth quarter. Buchanan was stopped on the conversion play.

Loyal executed an onside kick after the score and came away with the free ball on a short field. The Greyhounds scored quickly again, on Buchanan’s 2-yard run. His conversion run made it a 25-22 game with 10:29 to play.

Loyal tried another trick kick on the ensuing kickoff. Lindner said there was a gap in the Hurley kick-off alignment, and Loyal tried to pooch the ball into that area. The kick was a bit long, however, and Hurley recovered. The midgets then drove the length of the field — again — and Max Blamey scored on a 2-yard run with 4:08 left to play.

“We still had a shot at 25-22 and we just couldn’t do it,” Lindner said. “You could see they were definitely on their heels. We kicked a little too long and then we just couldn’t stop them again.”

Loyal had 216 yards of total offense. The Greyhounds ran 29 times for 136 yards. Matthew Szymanski had 60 yards on 10 carries.

Dietsche passed eight times with three completions for 80 yards, with Wilke catching two passes for 65 yards. Hurley also picked off two Loyal passes.

The first-round playoff loss ended Loyal’s season at 5-5 overall. The Greyhounds lost their first three games of the season to Ellsworth, Bangor and Abbotsford, then reeled off five straight wins in the Cloverwood Conference. Given the rough start, Lindner said a 5-5 season and another playoff berth was a positive outcome.

“We really struggled early. We had a lot of growing pains the first four weeks of the season,” Lindner said. “I think the guys came together. I think our guys grew together and bonded together in overcoming some obstacles.”

Loyal will start a new era next season when it moves to a new conference as a result of WIAA realignment due to teams such as Greenwood and Gilman switching to an 8-man format because of a lack of players. The Cloverwood Conference will no longer exist, and Loyal will join the Central Wisconsin/Small Conference with Almond-Bancroft, Iola-Scandinavia, Stevens Point Pacelli, Pittsville, Rosholt, Wild Rose and Wisconsin Rapids Assumption. The Greyhounds will play each of those teams next season, and will have non-conference contests against Abbotsford and Neillsville-Granton.